Fixing Interleague Play

Dan ClasgensContributor IJune 24, 2009

CHICAGO - JUNE 18:  Derrek Lee #25 of the Chicago Cubs speaks with Jermaine Dye #23 of the Chicago White Sox before the game on June 18, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Interleague play finally winds down in Major League Baseball this weekend, ending the most bizarre setup in all of sports.

After 13 years of the stuff, MLB still is missing the boat.

I am not anti-interleague, nor do I love it. I just think it is time to get it right.

As a Reds’ fan, I hate only seeing the Dodgers and Braves, one-time rivals, once a season in most cases.

I don’t think it is fair that the Reds have had to play their in-state foes, the Cleveland Indians, twice per season while their NL Central counterparts, the St. Louis Cardinals, get to square off against Kansas City six times per year.

Once again, though, Bud Selig and the powers that be make decisions based on dollars and cents and not necessarily what is right for the game.

There are fans that sit on both side of the fence. I have come up with a plan that not only satisfies all sides of this issue, but will bring much-needed balance to the MLB schedule.

Here it goes.

For starters, let’s get the leagues balanced out. Instead of having 16 teams in the National League and 14 in the American League, let’s move the Milwaukee Brewers back to the AL where they belong.

Why does the NL Central have six teams fighting for a playoff spot, but only four clubs have to battle it out in the AL West to get to the postseason?

Furthermore, 16 teams contend for four overall playoff spots in the NL, while in the AL, only 14 teams have to compete for the same number of playoff positions.

My plan starts with some realignment:

The NL stays pretty much the same, with only the Brewers leaving.

NL East: Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, and Phillies
NL Central: Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, and Reds
NL West: Diamonbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, and Rockies

The AL gets a bit more interesting. The Brewers slide into the AL Central while the Royals move to AL West.

AL East: Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees
AL Central: Brewers, Indians, Tigers, Twins and White Sox
AL West: A’s, Angels, Mariners, Rangers and Royals

Now that we have the leagues balanced, the next part of plan is a must. There will no longer be a stretch of interleague play, rather interleague games all season long. In order to have 15 teams in each league, there would have to be at least one interleague matchup at all times.

Does it really matter when these match-ups happen anyway?

Natural rivals like the Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, and the aforementioned Reds-Indians and Cardinals-Royals series would still go down annually, just not guaranteed twice per year every season.

Instead, MLB would go the route the NFL goes and rotate matchups annually.

For example, in 2010 the NL Central could start by being matched up against the AL West, with every team inside each division playing each other in one three-game series for a total of 15 games.

The next season, the NL Central could play the AL East, and then in 2012, square off against the AL Central.

In addition to playing the 15 set interleague games, natural rivals would meet in a three-game series, rotating homefield advantage. In years where they already played each other in the regular rotation, the teams would meet twice, once at each team’s location.

Teams that lack a natural rival would be placed into a pool of teams and have a random matchup selected based off how long it has been since teams have met. It’s not perfect, but it a compromise.

This could also give MLB a chance to play some games internationally by taking teams without a natural rival in other league and create a series out of it.

So, with 18 games of the 162-game schedule figured out and interleague play resolved, let’s examine how the rest of the schedule will work.

Each team will play 12 games against the other four teams in their division (six at home; six on the road). That translates into 48 division games, or roughly 30 percent of the team’s schedule.

The key here is that every team plays every other team in the division the same amount of times at home and away.

That leaves 96 games to play against the teams within the league from the other divisions. There are 10 total teams outside of the division in each league. By rotating the home field advantage annually, these teams would square off a total of nine times. Six games at home and three on the road this year means three games at home and six on the road next year.

The other six games would be based off of order of finish the previous season. For example, the team that finished last in the NL Central (usually the Pirates), would get three extra games against the last place finishers from the NL West and NL East respectively.

My system is not perfect, but it is far better than anything Bud Selig has come up with, and I don’t make $18 million per year.


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